“Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad – [with] Iram – who had lofty pillars, The like of which were not produced in (all) the land?”Holy Quran ((Surat al-Fajr: 6–8))
Located in the governate of Dhofar is the UNESCO world heritage site of Shasir/Ubar. Some claim that this is the location of an ancient lost city known as “Atlantis of the Sand“, and that it is also the site of the lost city of Iram mentioned in the Holy Quran.
The area surrounding the lost city is known as Ramlat Al Hashman which was a gateway for ancient frankincense trade routes through the Empty Quarter desert.
Planning your trip
Located 164 Km from Salalah, the drive to the lost city of Ubar can take up to 2 hours. Making it is ideal for a day trip from Salalah. If you consider camping overnight in Ramlat Al Hisman, you will get a glimpse into the lives of the traders that crossed this ancient route.
The drive to the archeological site does not require a 4×4. Travelling beyond Alshasir will require planning ahead as it is necessary to use a 4×4 and at least one support vehicle.
There are a number of tour operators in Salalah that offer trips to the archeological site of Ubar (Alshasir) and then onwards to the Alhashman sand dunes for overnight camping or just a taster of the empty quarter desert. Tourists from Muscat tend to hire commercial operators like Bahwan Travel, or Sumahram Falcon Tours (located at Crown Plaza Salalah). Our team opted for a local freelance tour guide that organized an overnight camping trip for us. If you are interested in organizing a full day or an overnight camping trip we are happy to help. Just write a comment on our contact page and we will get back to you.
Things to do
Most travel guides will have a section on Alshasir and the lost city of Ubar. The Bradt guide tells the story of how the discovery of Ubar was announced with much fanfare in The New York Times of 5 February 1992 and included in the Land of Frankincense Sites in 2000. The Culture Trip article provides good advice for visiting Oman’s empty quarter/
Walking around the archeological site gives the feeling of being in an Indiana Jones film. The blogpost by Andy in Oman titled “‘The Lost City of Ubar’ Found or Still Lost?! Shisr, Southern Oman” offers his experience on what to expect and why the site is so important to archeologists and historians.
Beyond Alshasir is the empty quarter desert with it’s magnificent sand dunes. The locals come to these dunes on adventure tours and overnight camping. The area of Alhashman and the the empty quarter desert has an amazing geological contrast. This is described in the NASA Earth Observatory website.
The mega sand dunes of the empty quarter are frequently visited by motorsport enthusiasts. Like the sands in Sharqqi’a region, the local youth frequent this area for “dune bashing” and overnight camping. In addition to all the desert fun you can have, you can’t help but feel the presence of this ancient trading highway.